Thursday, July 30, 2015

Farewell to a Classic, Hello New "Old School" Pencil Sharpeners part I

A little while ago, my beloved disco-era turquoise Panasonic Pana-point electric pencil sharpener bit the dust (RIP, my beauty!). In my experience, I have found that there is no comparison between the vintage (40+ years old!) Panasonic and any of the newer electric sharpeners on the market today, at least the ones within my budget. Another vintage Pana-point would cost about $140 from Etsy or eBay. For these reasons, I decided to get an “old school” crank sharpener. Actually, I purchased two: one Desert Song multifunctional adjustable model and the Xacto KS 8-hole, wall-mounted model.

As an artist, I keep a huge array of pencils- wax and oil-based colored pencils as well as graphite, pastel, charcoal, water-soluble and woodless types of all sizes and shapes (hex, triangular, etc). I also have an obsession with sharp points. Other artists may understand this, but I want to let readers know that I have very high expectations of a sharpener. Art supplies are expensive, so I use my pencils until they are impossible to sharpen any more. In the case of colored pencils, occasionally the cores fall out of their casings, and I will use the denuded cores in a lead holder until the holder can no longer support the remaining pebble of pigment. Sometimes I even remove the core from that last inch of wood casing myself. So, yes, I am serious about my pencils and their points, and I do not like to waste any of them!

amazon pic of desert song pencil sharpener
pic from listing
Desert Song  Model- portable and multi-functional

I was not expecting the Desert Song to accommodate all of my pencils since some have a really thick barrels, but I have been pleasantly surprised by this little dynamo! True to its claim, the DS sharpens pretty much any type of pencil as long as the pencil is actually dull and long enough to span the space between the sharpener's body and the extended "pincher" part. By using a pencil extender, I was able to sharpen shorter pencils and graphite and compressed charcoal sticks too.

Usually, pastel and chalk pencils are tricky to sharpen, but the Desert Song handles them perfectly. To my delight, it sharpens fat Conte a' Paris pastel pencils as well as the big yellow primary pencils made by Ticonderoga- both the round and triangular shapes.

The only “problem” with this little beauty is that you have to fiddle with the adjustment knob in some cases because it may over-sharpen your softer pencils, which will break at the narrowest point if you do not snap that off before using the implement. Also, if you place a fairly sharp pencil in the DS, it will do nothing, which is a good thing because you know that its “auto-stop” feature is working. Be gentle with delicate pencils like charcoal or pastel! I turn the crank slower and check the points early to make sure I have not over sharpened these types.

When I turn the knob all the way in a clockwise direction, it sharpens but leaves a perfectly flat “point”, which is desirable for softer pencils like the Prismacolor Premier and Derwent Drawing colored pencils. I have never owned a sharpener that could do this-very impressive!
When I use the sharpener with the adjustment knob turned all the way counter-clockwise, I get a long, needle-pointed tip that renders the finest lines when drawing tiny details.

The DS is also very easy to use- you just push in that little side button and pull the front plate out. Squeeze that button again to insert the pencil, then release the side button. You do not need to hold onto the pencil, as the plate will grip it firmly. Hold the body of the sharpener steady, and turn the crank.

I had no use for the mounting piece, so I cannot comment on this part. A few Amazon reviewers were a little biter about it, so it may not be useful. This does not detract from the sharpening function at all. Personally, I am very happy with the Desert Song. It is more portable than many other full-size sharpeners, it is easier on my hands and fingers than the little blade sharpeners, and it accommodates a broad range of pencil types.

Next post: Xacto KS 8-hole, wall-mounted manual pencil sharpener

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